Thinking About a Job Change?

Read This Before You Take the Plunge

Thinking About a Job Change?

You're tempted. Who wouldn't be? A prospective employer is wooing you with a higher hourly wage or annual salary, or maybe even a sign-on bonus. You daydream about making a down payment on that new car, taking a much-needed vacation or putting a dent in your credit card debt.

But proceed with caution. Money shouldn't be the only factor in an employment decision, say human resources consultants. Although you'd be taking home a bigger paycheck, you could be miserable in the new working environment. And accepting a job that offers more cash but less generous employee benefits -- like health and retirement plans -- could be a mistake. In fact, benefits typically represent about 25 percent to 30 percent of an employee's salary, experts say.

"It's always good to do your homework," says John Barbadian, a senior consultant at William M. Mercer Inc., a nationwide human resources consulting firm. "Always ask a lot of questions and make a comparison checklist."

Before you take the plunge, here are a few of the many issues experts say you should examine first:

Work Environment

  • Have you walked around the workplace? How do people interact? What is the professional atmosphere? Will you fit in?
  • Will you be able to communicate openly with various levels of management? Is the environment collaborative?
  • Are you going to be challenged at the new workplace? Will you be able to advance? Will you have the opportunity to earn more if you attain a higher degree or certification?
  • Have you researched the company? Has the organization recently merged with another, or is it considering a merger? Such an action could affect your job security.


  • Does the employer offer a range of health plans? How does the coverage level and access to healthcare compare? Will you have to pay more in premiums, copayments or deductibles for your family?
  • How does the retirement plan stack up? How much does the employer contribute or match? Is the plan portable?
  • Does the employer offer other benefits that may be important to you? Some examples of additional benefits are: dental insurance, a vision plan, life insurance, tuition reimbursement, continuing-education reimbursement, on-site continuing education, disability insurance, maternity leave, flexible working hours, on-site child care or reimbursement for child care, and job sharing.

Time Off

  • How many vacation, sick and personal days will you receive annually? How many paid holidays? How quickly will you accrue more vacation time?
  • Are all your days lumped together into one pool of paid time off? Is that system appealing to you?
  • What is the employer's policy on leaves for the birth or adoption of a child or the illness of a close family member? Does the employer offer more than the 12 weeks of unpaid leave mandated under the Family and Medical Leave Act? Can you take additional time off if the need arises?

Your Lifestyle

  • Will your new commute be more time-consuming or expensive than your old one?
  • How will the new job fit into your lifestyle? Will the job interfere with more important commitments or priorities in your life?
  • Does the new job put you closer to achieving your long-term goals?